Over the last couple of weeks I have been preaching through Romans 7. In each sermon there has been material that has ended up on the cutting room floor as it were. I am planning to write up that material in a couple of posts this week- and I hope that as I do that I will answer some of the questions that I have received.
Two weeks ago I preached on Romans 7:1-6. You can listen to the sermon here. The crux of the passage is in v.4. The Christian is one who had died to the Law in order to belong to Christ. At the cross the Lord Jesus who had fulfilled the Law perfectly absorbed the condemnation that the Law brings so that in union with Him we might be released from bondage to the Law. So the Christian is to think of themselves as one who is living in loyalty to Christ by the power of the Spirit rather than as one who is trying to keep the Law. I ended the sermon with a plea for Christ centred living- as a church, in our families, in the way in which we read Scripture and so on.
The question is this: Does the Law have any abiding relevance to our Christian lives? Historically many within a Reformed framework have spoken of Christians still being bound by the moral law. The so called civil and ceremonial (instructions on how Israel should carry out its civic life and the regulations concerning sacrifices and so on) have been fulfilled in or been abrogated by Christ but the moral law (particularly that enshrined within the Ten Commandments) is binding on believers. Interestingly both John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones in their treatments of Romans 7:1-6 end the section with warnings against antinomianism- a rejection of the Law.
But- and I say this with the greatest of respect- I was left wondering whether such warnings were necessary or even helpful. Clearly their warning was against a lifestyle that sits loose to the commands of God. But it seems to me that the safeguard against that envisaged in Romans 7 is not trying to find a role for the Law or coming up with a threefold division of the Law but is devotion to the Lord Jesus by the power of the Sprit.
We are those according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 who are under the law of Christ. We are to obey His teaching and that of His apostles as part of living in faithfulness to Him. When we do that in the power of His Spirit we end up keeping the essence of the Law. After all the One who inspired the Law is the same God as seen in Jesus Christ who has come to live within our hearts by His Spirit. Jesus’ teaching will often cite the Law and then apply it as a command for His disciples- the Sermon on the Mount is a prime example of this. It is completely wrong to say that freedom from the Law in order to be bound to Christ is a way of introducing moral laxity- rather it should lead to a deeper righteousness than the Pharisees.
So how do we read the Old Testament Law? It’s a question I am beginning to ponder as I’m considering a major series from part of the Pentateuch in 2013. The main point I want to make is that we must read it through Christ. As we read it we must ask these questions:
How is this fulfilled in Jesus?
How, if at all, do Jesus and His apostles apply this to the life of the New Testament believer?
(Reading Galatians and Hebrews may help you to begin to answer some of these questions!)
We simply must not read straight from the Law to us without considering the work of Christ- because the Christian life is not about keeping the Law but about living out our union with Christ.